For first time in history, Apec leaders fail to agree on joint communique
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For first time in history, Apec leaders fail to agree on joint communique

TENSIONS between the United States and China have prevented leaders at the Apec Summit from producing a joint communique for the first time in its 25-year history.

All of the 21 leaders at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting were in agreement except China, who took issue with the wording around trade.

A US official at the meeting confirmed the disagreements to CNN on Sunday.

The official said the most “problematic” line for the Chinese was: “We agree to fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices.”

SEE ALSO: Could Trump and Xi’s ‘good’ chat spell an end to the US-China trade war?

“They seemed to think that the ‘unfair trade practices’ was some kind of singling out,” the official said.

“It’s a little concerning that it appears that China didn’t really have any intention in the end of reaching consensus.”

The tension between the US and Beijing was palpable throughout the weekend. The group’s inability to reach a consensus on the joint statement has dampened hopes that an end to the escalating trade war could be near.

“The United States… will not change course until China changes its ways,” US Vice-President Mike Pence said, attacking China for employing unfair trade practices such as forced technology transfer.

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Leaders pose for a “family photo” during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Port Moresby on November 18, 2018. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

“We have great respect for President Xi (Jinping) and China, but as we all know, China has taken advantage of the United States for many, many years and those days are over,” he said, as reported by Financial Times.

Pence attended the summit in Papua New Guinea in place of US President Donald Trump who was in California visiting the site of wildfires.

This is not the first major Asia-based summit Trump has missed this month. He also chose not to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and the East Asia Summit the week before.

SEE ALSO: US-China Trade: Are we heading for the next cold war?

The US-China trade war has rattled investors and had experts concerned the world could be facing a second Cold War unless a deal is reached soon.

US tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese goods are scheduled to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent in January. Trump has also threatened to impose levies on a further US$267 billion of goods from China, covering all imports.

China has so far retaliated with tariffs on US$110 billion of US products and is likely to respond with more if the United States goes ahead with the increase at the start of next year.

Trump and Xi are expected to meet at the G20 in Argentina at the end of the month. With negotiations between delegations making little headway, there’s hope a face-to-face meeting between the two could bring some progress.

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US Vice President Mike Pence (R), New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (2nd R), Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison (L) and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2nd L) greet Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill (C) after signing an agreement for electricity during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Port Moresby on November 18, 2018. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

But either side has appeared unwilling to make significant concessions.

In a speech at the Summit, Xi attacked Trump’s preference for bilateral trade agreements that bypass China.

“Unilateralism and protectionism will not solve problems but add uncertainty to the world economy,” he said.

“History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, produces no winners.”

A Leaders’ Declaration has been issued after every annual Apec meeting since the first in 1993.